While neither Walsh’s nor Connolly’s background necessarily means that he would make a better or a worse mayor, there is no question that their life stories have shaped the contours of the race since they made it through the preliminary.
Walsh’s union credentials have engendered what may be an unprecedented effort from organized labor on his behalf. Unions and union members from the city, the state and throughout the country have provided him with a substantial campaign war chest and a huge army of foot soldiers working the phones and pounding the pavement. Connolly continually references his time as a teacher and the fact that he is a Boston public school parent, and he has enthusiastic support from parents of school age children in the city.
Geographically, Connolly is from the western part of the city and has a base in its high voting wards in the West Roxbury, Roslindale and Hyde Park neighborhoods. Walsh is from Dorchester, Boston’s most populous neighborhood, and is running very well there and in neighboring South Boston. The two candidates will own their home turf. And each has pockets of strength in other neighborhoods like Charlestown, Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill.
The two loose groupings who may tell the tale in the end on Tuesday are voters of color and newer city residents. The latter group tend to be more affluent and are more likely to support Connolly, with whose professional pedigree and even his Boston accent-free speech pattern they are more likely to identify. Connolly’s mantra in the campaign’s closing days is that Walsh’s labor ties mean that he cannot be trusted to stand up for taxpayers against public employee and other unions and will endanger the city’s finances. This is clearly aimed, at least in part, at this group. The difficulty for Connolly, as DiCara and Sutherland have established, is that new Bostonians did not engage in the preliminary and are unlikely to turn out in much higher numbers on Tuesday.
Thus, it seems probable that voters of color will decide the outcome. And the key factor here is that Walsh has collected endorsements from all of the former mayoral candidates of color who have expressed a preference, including third place finisher and the only female candidate, former state representative and Menino administration official, Charlotte Golar Richie. He has also amassed a myriad of endorsements from other minority leaders.
Maybe most notably, and definitely most symbolically, Walsh has garnered a vote of confidence from African American elder statesman, Mel King, a former state representative and a Boston mayoral finalist in 1983 when Ray Flynn, the last Boston Irish mayor, was elected. Endorsements don’t vote, but these politicians are working hard for Walsh. The most recent poll shows that their backers are breaking decisively for him. In addition to his having earned endorsements from people they trust, I suspect voters of color are moving to Walsh because his life story resonates more powerfully with them than Connolly’s.
I believe their votes will put Martin Walsh over the top and make him Boston’s next mayor. The polls indicate that there is a pronounced surge for Walsh, yet the race remains very tight. It will all come down to turnout. And I just don’t think Connolly has anywhere near the get-out-the-vote operation Walsh does. At any rate, all will become clear late on Tuesday. A long night in Galway lies ahead.